Strong December doesn’t stop Wisconsin from having slowest job growth since 2010

Last updated on January 24th, 2020 at 11:39 am

Want the good news? Wisconsin added 9,000 private sector jobs from November to December, led by strong gains in nondurable goods manufacturing, wholesale trade and accommodation and food service, according to seasonally adjusted data.

The bad news? The number of private sector jobs in Wisconsin increased 8,600 from December 2018 to December 2019 with an increase of 8,500 retail trade jobs accounted for most of the gains. The year-over-year increase of 0.33% marks the state’s slowest job growth for a calendar year since 2010. It is also the slowest 12-month job growth period for Wisconsin since July 2011.

The numbers are preliminary and subject to revision. They are also result of surveys done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau also publishes more detailed data on a longer delay that relies on payroll data for a more accurate count.

The most recent payroll measure, known as the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, showed the monthly surveys had overestimated manufacturing job losses in Wisconsin during the first half of the year. A loss of 1,300 jobs was actually the addition of 8,000 jobs.

However, the more accurate data didn’t bolster the state’s overall job growth, which ranked around 40th in the country in the first half of the year.

For all of 2019, Wisconsin averaged year-over-year private sector job growth of 0.58%, according to the newly released monthly data, still the worst since 2011.

“Although the lack of available workers continues to be an impediment to economic growth in Wisconsin, the Evers administration is wisely prioritizing solutions to fill openings, as well as provide greater economic opportunities to those already in the workforce,” state Department of Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman said. “Feeling sharp local impacts from tariffs and trade wars at the federal level, the employers successfully attracting and retaining quality talent are doing so with strong pay and benefits, collaboration with diverse economic stakeholders including schools, and with an eye toward inclusion.”

For years, Wisconsin employers have said they are having trouble finding qualified workers to fill their open positions.

While Wisconsin’s unemployment rate remains low at 3.4%, it has been trending up in recent months, including a 0.1 percentage point increase from November. In December 2018, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3%.

The U.S. unemployment rate, on the other hand, has trended down from 3.9% in December 2018 to 3.5% last month.

Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate has also been trending in the opposite direction from the U.S., dropping by 0.5 percentage points in the last year to 67%. The U.S. labor force participation rate remains lower at 63.2%, but it has increased by 0.2 points since December 2018.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.